25 NOVEMBER 1932, Page 18


There has been some question in recent years of the wholesomeness or otherwise of food cooked in aluminium pans. Undoubtedly a certain proportion of the metal is absorbed by the food, either as pure aluminium or as an aluminium compound, and the suggestion has been made that the cumulative effect of eating food so impregnated, over a period of years, might be dangerous to health: In at least one case that has come to my notice a whole battery of pans Was discarded as a result, and the author of the deed spent

much of her time thereafter in exhorting her friends to follow her example. A report recently issued by the council of the British Non-Ferrous Metals Research Association may be taken as• having set the matter at rest. The Association• appointed an impartial and suitably qualified investigator to review all the published evidence for and against the toxicity of aluminium ; and his conclusions, together with the evidence on which they are based, are given in full. It is enough here to quote his final paragraph :— " The final conclusion is in no doubt that aluminium cooking vessels offer no danger to health. When aluminium salts are taken by mouth, small amounts are absorbed into the blood and tissues ; it is, however, a peculiarity of aluminium salts that, except when very large amounts are directly introduced into the body by injection, they produced no harmful effects. When aluminium cooking vessels are used, the amount of aluminium salts which enters the food is not more than a small fraction of a grain a day, and of this only traces are absorbed into the tissues ; these have been re- peate.dly shown to be harmless." .

. Emphasis is laid on the fact that the Association (whose interests must obviously lay any claim of disinterestedness on their part open to suspicion) wished to arrive at the truth, however 'unfavourable to their purpose it might prove to be; and the author particularly states in his prefatory note that he was fully prepared to present an adverse report. No reasonable reader of his summary is likely to doubt either his sincerity or the justice of his findings. Henceforth we may continue to cook our food in aluminium pans with comfortable minds.

A question bearing only indirectly on the main issue was not investigated, but is, I think, worthy of notice. It is customary to clean aluminium cooking vessels with a par- ticularly fine steel wool. As a result of the scouring, the steel fibres break up and are gradually borne away by the water. However harmless an addition to food aluminium may be, there is no doubt that a diet of these microscopically fine steel shavings is not to be recommended for aspiring cen- tenarians. The greatest care should be taken in rinsing the pans after they have been scoured, to the end that no trace of this detritus may remain to form an unwelcome addition to some future meal. This caution applies, of course, with equal point to vessels of other materials than aluminium.